Showing posts from November, 2009

What makes special forces special

Times: ... “The better connected and faster we are at processing information the more we are able to achieve what we called ‘information dominance’ — identify targets, go after those targets rapidly, exploit the information that we have from that and quickly cross reference that information to continue that process,” General McChrystal told The Times in a recent interview. ... The Americans were impressed by the ability of the SAS to get up close to a target before striking — a technique known as “close target recce”. Members of the team would apparently dye their skin brown and hair black, don fake gold watches and wear Iraqi clothes to look like locals, and approach a target. This is just a couple of things that make the the British SAS special. One is gathering intelligence on an adversary and the other is attacking and neutralizing that adversary. You need the first to make the second most effective. The data base on the enemy movement is key.

Bad sex award

Guardian: The American winner of the Prix Goncourt, Jonathan Littell, has added another feather to his cap. His novel, The Kindly Ones, was tonight announced as the winner of the Literary Review's 2009 bad sex in fiction award . The Kindly Ones, which tells the story of the Holocaust through the eyes of one of the executioners, beat off stiff competition from a stellar shortlist that included entries from Philip Roth, John Banville, Paul Theroux and the literary rock star Nick Cave. The judges paid tribute to the novel's breadth and ambition, calling it "in part, a work of genius". "However," the citation continued, "a mythologically inspired passage and lines such as 'I came suddenly, a jolt that emptied my head like a spoon scraping the inside of a soft-boiled egg' clinched the award for The Kindly Ones. We hope he takes it in good humour." ... I can thankfully say I have never had such an experience.

So are Muslims ready to allow churches and synogogs in Saudi Arabia?

AFP: Switzerland confronted an international backlash and charges of intolerance on Monday as Islamic nations reacted with anger to a shock vote to ban new minarets. The Vatican joined in expressions of dismay after Sunday's vote for a constitutional ban on the construction of towers attached to mosques, while the government moved to assure Muslims it was not a rejection of their religion. Some 57.5 percent of those who cast ballots supported the measure amid a high turnout by Swiss standards of 53 percent. There was harsh criticism in Egypt , Indonesia , Lebanon and other Islamic countries while Pakistani religious groups condemned it as "extreme Islamophobia ." "Such an anachronistic referendum should not have been allowed to take place in these times," said Turkey's culture minister, Ertugrul Gunay. ... "This is the hatred of Swiss people against Muslim communities," said

Democrats drive up cost of health insurance 10%

The Hill: Individual insurance premiums would increase by an average of 10 percent or more, according to an analysis of the Senate healthcare bill. The long-awaited report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) also concluded that subsidies provided by the legislation would make coverage cheaper for those who qualify. ... "CBO and JCT estimate that the average premium per person covered (including dependents) for new nongroup policies would be about 10 percent to 13 percent higher in 2016 than the average premium for nongroup coverage in that same year under current law. About half of those enrollees would receive government subsidies that would reduce their costs well below the premiums that would be charged for such policies under current law," the report says. ... Only 17 percent would be eligible for the subsidies so most folks would wind up paying more for health insurance. That is not what Obama and the Democrats promised whe

The Venezuela-African connection

Guardian: There was little for the investigators to go on. The remains of the plane's skeleton, smouldering on a remote airstrip in the Sahara desert, revealed few clues. Even now, more than two weeks after the Boeing 727 was found in Mali , west Africa, the cause of the plane's demise has yet to be revealed, triggering questions about whether it really crashed or was torched to destroy evidence. The one thing on which investigators agree is that the cargo plane had been used to transport cocaine into Africa from Latin America, probably Venezuela, that was bound for the streets of Europe. The find is being seen as significant by US and European intelligence agencies, which believe the traffickers are using a corridor running through several central-north African states controlled by terrorist networks to channel drugs to western Europe. From west African coastal states such as Guinea -Bissau the drugs pass through Mauritania, Mali and Niger before ending up in Libya or Egypt.

Congress should stop civilian trials for terrorist

Rep. Louis Gohmert explains why the military tribunals should be given exclusive jurisdiction to try the terrorist making war against us. He also reproduce this statement by KSM and his co-conspirators: ... - “So, if our act of Jihad and our fighting with you caused fear and terror, then many thanks to God, because it is him that has thrown fear into your hearts, which resulted in your infidelity, paganism, and your statement that God had a son and your trinity beliefs. God stated in his book, verse 151, Al-Umran: ((Soon shall we cast terror into the hearts of the unbelievers, for that they joined companies with Allah, for which he has sent no authority; There[sic] place will be the fire; and evil is the home of the wrongdoers.)) ”p.4 - “So, our religion is a religion of fear and terror to the enemies of God: the Jews, the Christians, and pagans. With God’s willing, we are terrorists to the bone. So, many thanks to God. . . We will make all of our materials available, to defend and d

Parasitic government and the private sector

Jack Kelly: President Barack Obama has little interest in, understanding of or affection for free markets, so he fails to understand that the fundamental relationship between government and the economy is that of parasite to host. Some functions of government are absolutely essential to a free economy. We need a sound currency, civil courts to enforce contracts and to provide a peaceful means of dispute resolution, protection from criminals at home and enemies abroad. Other functions of government -- chiefly those such as Social Security, Medicare and unemployment insurance that involve the redistribution of wealth -- are supported by large majorities of Americans. But though government can consume wealth and redistribute wealth, it can't create wealth. And unless wealth is created, there is nothing to consume or redistribute. That's why -- even when government is doing something we all agree must be done or most of us want to have it do -- government is a parasite. All it has

A new role for Pakistan

Washington Post: President Obama has offered Pakistan an expanded strategic partnership, including additional military and economic cooperation, while warning with unusual bluntness that its use of insurgent groups to pursue policy goals "cannot continue." The offer, including an effort to help reduce tensions between Pakistan and India , was contained in a two-page letter delivered to President Asif Ali Zardari this month by Obama national security adviser James L. Jones. It was accompanied by assurances from Jones that the United States will increase its military and civilian efforts in Afghanistan and that it plans no early withdrawal. Obama's speech Tuesday night at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., will address primarily the Afghanistan aspects of the strategy. But despite the public and political attention focused on the number of new troops, Pakistan has been the hot core of the months-long strategy review. The long-term consequences of failure

Texas, other states hard hit by Obamacare unfunded mandates

Dick Morris and Eileen McGann: The "health-care reform" bills in Congress would hit 39 states hard with new expenses, by raising Medicaid eligibility above the cur rent income cutoffs. The only states that won't have to raise eligibility because of the Senate bill are Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont and Wisconsin (plus the District of Columbia). And the House bill would force even Massachusetts and Vermont to pay more. Hardest hit would be Texas ($2,750 million a year in extra state spending under the Senate bill), Pennsylvania ($1,450 million), California ($1,428 million) and Florida ($909 million). Who knows if Florida could avoid imposing an income tax if it has to meet so high an unfunded mandate? The required increases in state spending are likely to be quite high in some states whose senators are swing votes on ObamaCare: * In Arkansas, home to swing Sens. Mark Pryor and Blanche Linc

Obama backs away from big increase in Afghan forces

WSJ: The Obama administration has soured on a call from its top commander to double the size of the Afghan police and army, reflecting the White House's continued skepticism about the Afghan government even as the U.S. prepares a surge of troops into the country, people familiar with the matter say. At an address at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point on Tuesday, President Barack Obama is expected to announce that he will send roughly 30,000 American reinforcements to Afghanistan in addition to the 21,000 he deployed early in his administration. The escalation would bring total U.S. forces to some 100,000, the largest American troop deployment to Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion that toppled the Taliban government. Mr. Obama may need Republicans to back his latest troop increase to make up for Democratic antiwar defections. The GOP, however, will question any decision that falls short of Gen. Stanley McChrystal's request for 40,000 more troops, said Rep. Tom Price (R.,

Medicare fraud unabated

Washington Times: Medicare fraud is a multibillion-dollar business preying on an ever-increasing number of retiring baby boomers who often are being charged for medical treatments and products they don't need and for services they don't receive. The health care reform legislation pending in Congress -- and under debate in the Senate -- relies on reining in these fraudulent schemes to help finance coverage for the uninsured. But analysts in and out of government question whether those savings will ever be found. Despite bolstered efforts by federal, state and local law enforcement authorities to crack down on fraudsters, abuse continues to grow. Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer, who heads the Justice Department's criminal division, told the Senate Judiciary Committee's subcommittee on crime and drugs in May that 3 percent to 10 percent of the $800 billion spent on Medicare and Medicaid each year "is lost to waste, fraud and abuse." "As governmen

Conservative wins in Honduras

NY Times: Porfirio Lobo, a longtime conservative politician, appeared to have won on Sunday in the Honduran presidential election, which many hoped could help the country emerge from the crisis caused by last summer’s coup and end its isolation. The electoral tribunal said Sunday night that Mr. Lobo had 52 percent of the vote, with almost two-thirds of the votes counted. That gave him a margin of more than 16 percentage points over his main opponent, Elvin Santos. Shortly before midnight, Mr. Santos conceded, Reuters reported. ... This election is a strong rejection of Zelaya and his leftist policies. The large turnout also rebuffed Zelaya's call for a boycott. The election was also a rejection of the interference in Honduran affairs by Chavez and others. The Times continues to wrongly describe Zelaya's removal as a coup. The facts are that his removal was because of his violations of the Honduras constitution. His replacement was also pursuant to the constitution.

Conservative takes big lead in Honduras election

NY Times: Porfirio Lobo, a longtime conservative politician, appeared headed toward victory on Sunday in the Honduran presidential election, which many hoped could help the country emerge from the crisis caused by last summer’s coup and end its isolation. Television news reports projected that Mr. Lobo, who owns one of the country’s largest farms, carried 55 percent of the vote in a commanding lead over his opponent, Elvin Santos, who had about 39 percent. ... This looks like a strong rejection of Zelaya and his leftist buddies in the region. Other reports show a large turnout. Since Zelaya called for a boycott every vote cast can be sonsidered a vote against him. The Times is still sticking to the description of Zelaya's legal removal as a coup. Such a description ignores the Honduran constitution and the facts. Mary O'Grady says this is a huge victory for tiny Honduras.

Russia looks for former Muslim soldier for train bombing

Independent: Russian authorities suspect a former Russian soldier of being behind Friday's train derailment which killed at least 25 people and injured around 100. According to news reports yesterday, the Russian security services have marked Pavel Kosolapov, a Russian soldier turned Islamic militant, as one of the top suspects in the train derailment, which appears to have been caused by a bomb. Little is known about Mr Kosolapov, and there is only one grainy photograph of him in public circulation. He is believed to have converted to Islam during the 1990s and become a close associate of Shamil Basayev, the terrorist mastermind behind the Beslan school siege, who was finally killed by Russian forces in 2006. Mr Kosolapov is wanted in connection with a bomb incident that took place on the same line and derailed a similar Nevsky Express train two years ago. On that occasion, nobody was killed. Two men from Ingushetia, the restive province that borders Chechnya, are standing tri

Revolutionary Guard takes over Iran's naval patrol in strategic waters

Washington Post: Iran has reorganized its naval forces to give operational control of the strategic Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz to the naval component of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the paramilitary organization that is playing an increasingly central role not only in Iran's military but also its political and economic life. Politically favored over Iran's traditional navy, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy, or IRGCN as it is known, "has capitalized on this status to acquire advanced weaponry and better platforms to develop additional capabilities," according to the study by the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence titled "Iran's Naval Forces: From Guerilla [sic] Warfare to a Modern Naval Strategy," Fall 2009. The study was disclosed last week by Steven Aftergood on his Secrecy News Web site. Faced with threats of military attacks on its nuclear facilities, Iranian leaders have threatened to cut off almost 30 percent of the wor

Say what?

From the Daily Mail: Parents vetted to check they're not paedophiles before being allowed to Christmas carol services with their children That just sounds like a strange excuse for doing the vetting of parents. Where is the probably cause, or do the Brits not worry about such legal protection?

Pakistan challenged to find bin Laden

Times: Gordon Brown told Pakistan to “take out” Osama bin Laden yesterday as Western frustration at its failure to capture the al-Qaeda leader burst into the public glare. With America and Britain seeking support for their decisions in the next two days to send tens of thousands more troops to Afghanistan, Mr Brown told the Pakistani leadership that it had not done enough to catch the men — believed to be hiding in the north of the country — responsible for the September 11 attacks. His criticism was aimed at the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence service, which the West has long believed to be too close to extremist groups harbouring bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri. ... Pakistan's success in driving the Taliban from their lair in the tribal areas may have tempted Western leaders to thing they should go ahead and clean up the rest of the area where the religious bigots hide out. It maybe and idea whose time has come and it would certainly be beneficial to Paki

Britain caused by global warming?

Daily Mail: An ancient giant river that was created when a huge glacial lake in the North Sea overflowed was responsible for first dividing Britain from France. The 'Fleuve Manche' or 'super-river' ran south from the area of the North Sea. At different times in history the river ebbed sufficiently to let people and animals cross from the continent into England. Then melting ice filled up the valley and the 'Fleuve Manche' became 'La Manche' - the French word for 'sleeve' that describes the English Channel. Scientists have now pieced together the geological jigsaw behind these events after studying samples of sediment carried by the ancient river and deposited in the Bay of Biscay. Earlier studies had suggested that the river existed during a sequence of ice ages that began 450,000 years ago. It formed when a huge glacial lake in the North Sea overflowed, causing a "mega-flood" which gouged through the chalky rock separating Britain and

Troops fear losing the war at home

Independent: Britain is at serious risk of losing its way in Afghanistan because rising defeatism at home is demoralising the troops on the front line, military commanders have warned. High-ranking officers, including a former commander of the SAS, have expressed deep concern that the country is in danger of "talking ourselves into a defeat back home" as the war reaches a critical stage. They say there is "surprise and disappointment" among members of the forces at the constant pessimism in the UK over the conflict, and what looks like a lack of appreciation for what they are achieving at great personal risk and in extremely difficult circumstances. Such is the level of concern about the impact of this "negativity" that a number of senior officers have now taken the step of publicly speaking out. They have told The Independent that, in their view, the British people are not getting a true picture of what is going on, and that any loss of public support

'Benefits' of rationed healthcare in UK

From the Guardian: Late cancer diagnosis 'killing 10,000 a year' The blame the doctors and the patients, but for a significant number of people rationed health care is a real killer. The Daily Mail adds: Britain's shame over the cancer toll on women... nearly the worst in Europe Apparently there could be worse rationed health care systems in Europe, but not many.

A backlash against a backlash?

From the Telegraph: Switzerland risks Muslim backlash after minarets vote I think the vote against the minarets was more than a rejection of architectural elements surrounding mosques. It was really a backlash against aggressive Islam which prohibits Christian churches in places like Saudi Arabia. Perhaps it is a backlash against Muslim prohibitions of Christian symbols.

Hondurans defy Zelaya boycot call

BBC: Polls are closing in the presidential election in Honduras after voting was extended for an hour to allow large numbers of people to cast ballots. The poll comes five months after a political crisis ousted President Manuel Zelaya. He was forced from Honduras at gunpoint in June, and replaced by Roberto Micheletti. Neither are candidates. The favourite to win is conservative Porfirio Lobo, with liberal Elvin Santos considered his nearest rival. Mr Zelaya had called for a boycott of the election, saying high abstention levels would discredit the government of the interim president. ... If they had to extend the voting period for an hour to take care of a large turnout, that suggest voters paid no attention to Zelaya. Some of the leftist government in the area will poo poo the results, but they are trying to overlook the reality of a free and open democratic vote.

Globo warmers destroy evidence

Sunday Times: SCIENTISTS at the University of East Anglia (UEA) have admitted throwing away much of the raw temperature data on which their predictions of global warming are based. It means that other academics are not able to check basic calculations said to show a long-term rise in temperature over the past 150 years. The UEA’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) was forced to reveal the loss following requests for the data under Freedom of Information legislation. The data were gathered from weather stations around the world and then adjusted to take account of variables in the way they were collected. The revised figures were kept, but the originals — stored on paper and magnetic tape — were dumped to save space when the CRU moved to a new building. ... I suspect they may have had other motives than space considerations. Frank Beckman points out, "The jaw-dropping evidence centers on the e-mails of the unit's leader, Professor Phil Jones who -- according to one me

From Gitmo to Yemen to ...

Washington Post: ... Yemen's handling of former Guantanamo detainees and accused extremists in its own jails has raised fears that sending detainees back to this nation, the poorest in the Arab world, might only create more militants determined to attack America. Disputes over the fates of 97 Yemeni detainees, roughly 40 percent of the current prison population at Guantanamo, are a key reason President Obama has given up on his promise to shut down the facility by January. U.S. officials are also concerned about Yemen's lax supervision of accused terrorists. Many of those imprisoned for orchestrating the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, which killed 17 American sailors in this coastal city, have escaped or been freed by Yemeni officials. The government has also refused to extradite two of the attack's alleged organizers to the United States to face murder charges. But not returning eligible detainees to Yemen or delaying the closing of the prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba , c

Conflict of interest at Justice Department

Washington Times Editorial: ... We reported in this space on Nov. 22 that Associate Attorney General Thomas J. Perrelli, the third-ranking official in the Justice Department, had recused himself from at least 39 cases (13 of them active) involving terrorism-related detainees. We editorialized then that it would be worrisome if "the department's prevailing ethos could be tilted strongly in the detainees' favor." The Republican committee members, led by Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, wrote a letter on Tuesday to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to demand further explanations of how potential conflicts are handled. In addition to asking for a list of Justice Department officials who have been recused from detainee cases and for a list of those cases, the senators are asking what the criteria for such recusals are, for the scope of the recusals - "e.g. is an individual who previously represented a detainee recused only from matters related to that individual or f

Forging the 'peer reviewed' consensus

Mark Steyn: ... Here’s what Phil Jones of the CRU and his colleague Michael Mann of Penn State mean by “peer review.” When Climate Research published a paper dissenting from the Jones-Mann “consensus,” Jones demanded that the journal “rid itself of this troublesome editor,” and Mann advised that “we have to stop considering Climate Research as a legitimate peer-reviewed journal. Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers.” So much for Climate Research . When Geophysical Research Letters also showed signs of wandering off the “consensus” reservation, Dr. Tom Wigley (“one of the world’s foremost experts on climate change”) suggested they get the goods on its editor, Jim Saiers, and go to his bosses at the American Geophysical Union to “get him ousted.” When another pair of troublesome dissenters emerge, Dr. Jones assured Dr. Mann, “I can’t see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin and I will k

At war with 'The Narrative'

Thomas Friedman: What should we make of Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, who apparently killed 13 innocent people at Fort Hood? Here’s my take: Major Hasan may have been mentally unbalanced — I assume anyone who shoots up innocent people is. But the more you read about his support for Muslim suicide bombers, about how he showed up at a public-health seminar with a PowerPoint presentation titled “Why the War on Terror Is a War on Islam,” and about his contacts with Anwar al-Awlaki, a Yemeni cleric famous for using the Web to support jihadist violence against America — the more it seems that Major Hasan was just another angry jihadist spurred to action by “The Narrative.” What is scary is that even though he was born, raised and educated in America, The Narrative still got to him. The Narrative is the cocktail of half-truths, propaganda and outright lies about America that have taken hold in the Arab-Muslim world since 9/11. Propagated by jihadist Web sites, mosque preachers, Arab intellectuals,

The worst scientific scandal of a generation

Christopher Booker: A week after my colleague James Delingpole, on his Telegraph blog, coined the term "Climategate" to describe the scandal revealed by the leaked emails from the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit, Google was showing that the word now appears across the internet more than nine million times. But in all these acres of electronic coverage, one hugely relevant point about these thousands of documents has largely been missed. The reason why even the Guardian 's George Monbiot has expressed total shock and dismay at the picture revealed by the documents is that their authors are not just any old bunch of academics. Their importance cannot be overestimated, What we are looking at here is the small group of scientists who have for years been more influential in driving the worldwide alarm over global warming than any others, not least through the role they play at the heart of the UN's Intergovern

Marines pushing anti poppy campaign in Helmand

LA Times: Under an awning set up at a tiny outpost guarded by U.S. Marines, the district governor of Nawa is pleading with three dozen solemn-looking farmers and village elders not to plant the crop that feeds the world heroin market. Haji Abdul Manaf, a farmer and onetime leader in the fight against Russian occupiers, has several parts to his passionate anti-poppy pitch. Moral: Planting an illegal crop puts you in collusion with criminals and violates the Koran. Practical: If Nawa continues to be known as the center of the poppy crop, outsiders like the Americans won't come here to build schools, clinics and roads. And then the direct approach. "If you grow poppy, we will catch you, destroy your crop and put you in jail!" shouted Manaf, as his audience stared impassively, some fingering worry beads, others nibbling on plates of garbanzo beans, raisins and tiny candies. It is a speech that Manaf, at the behest of the Americans, makes frequently at open-air meetings of fa

Psychotherapy beats a raise

HealthDay News: Psychological therapy may be much more effective at making people happy than getting a raise or winning a lottery prize, suggests an English study . Researchers analyzed data on thousands of people who provided information about their mental well-being and found that the increase in happiness from a $1,329 course of therapy was so significant that it would take a pay raise of more than $41,542 to achieve an equal boost in well-being. That suggests that therapy could be as much as 32 times more cost-effective at improving well-being than simply getting more money, the researchers said. The study was published online Nov. 18 in the journal Health Economics , Policy and Law . "We have shown that psychological therapy could be much more cost effective than financial compensation at alleviating psychological distress," said study author Chris Boyce , of the University of Warwick .

Troops say they need more

Washington Times: President Obama's pending decision to send thousands of additional troops to Afghanistan weighs heavily on U.S. forces already on the ground. A Washington Times reporter and photographer spent much of October - the deadliest month for American troops there thus far - with U.S. Army soldiers in southern Afghanistan, who spoke openly of the need for more boots on the ground, the more and sooner the better. "We need more troops," said Army Staff Sgt. Daniel Paul Rabidou, 24, stationed at a small combat outpost in the Maywand district. "It's just as simple as that." The Blackwatch unit - Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, with the 5th Stryker Brigade - arrived at the outpost Sept. 13. Since their arrival, they have lost three soldiers and two civil-affairs officers. Bombings have destroyed three of their four Stryker vehicles. ... Capt. Jeffery Givens, 25, with the 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, Mobile Gun System Plato

9,000 more Marines headed to Helmand

Washington Post: Days after President Obama outlines his new war strategy in a speech Tuesday, as many as 9,000 Marines will begin final preparations to deploy to southern Afghanistan and renew an assault on a Taliban stronghold that slowed this year amid a troop shortage and political pressure from the Afghan government, senior U.S. officials said. The extra Marines will be the first to move into the country as part of Obama's escalation of the eight-year-old war. They will double the size of the U.S. force in the southern province of Helmand and will provide a critical test for Afghan President Hamid Karzai's struggling government and Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal's counterinsurgency strategy. "The first troops out of the door are going to be Marines," Gen. James T. Conway, the Corps' top officer, told fellow Marines in Afghanistan on Saturday. "We've been leaning forward in anticipation of a decision. And we've got some pretty stiff fighting co

Iran Parliament opposes cooperation on nukes

Reuters /NY Times: Lawmakers urged Iran's government on Sunday to prepare a plan on reducing cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), after the U.N. body rebuked Tehran for secretly building a uranium enrichment plant. Parliament's move highlighted growing tension between the Islamic Republic and major powers seeking a diplomatic solution to a long-running dispute over Iranian nuclear work the West suspects is aimed at making bombs. It is also likely to cast further doubt on any prospect of Iran accepting a U.N.-drafted nuclear fuel deal meant to allay international concern about its atomic activities, which Tehran says are aimed at generating electricity. ... Iran keeps saying "No" in ways that are hard to ignore, but Obama and the rest of the world keep ignoring that "No" anyway, because they are not willing to pursue a credible alternative. Russia and China keep scaling back any sanctions, and the use of forces has in reality by

Chavez can't deliver water etc.

Sunday Telegraph: For the slum-dwellers of El Junquito , the fabulous views of Caracas have never been of much interest. It was the piped water and electricity supplied to their makeshift homes that earned their loyalty to Venezuela's authoritarian leader, President Hugo Chavez. But 10 years after Mr Chavez launched his socialist "revolution", funded by an oil boom that has poured an estimated $800 billion into his coffers, the energy-rich state is plagued by ever more frequent power cuts and desperate water shortages. That is costing the populist president his support among those who should be his bedrock followers - the poor. Now, in an attempt to regain his popularity, the former paratrooper turned firebrand politician is responding with an mixture of bellicose bluster and almost comic bravado. In recent weeks he has urged his countrymen to stop wasting water by singing in the shower and complained at their enthusiasm for energ

Brits looking to retreat from Afghanistan

Independent on Sunday: British troops will begin handing over control of Helmand province to Afghan forces by the end of next year, Gordon Brown claimed yesterday as he set out plans for a withdrawal from Afghanistan after years of bloody fighting and the deaths of 235 British soldiers. On the eve of President Barack Obama's expected announcement of a deployment of up to 35,000 extra US troops, the Prime Minister laid out a series of milestones for the Kabul government to meet before Britain's commitment can end. It follows intense public pressure on Mr Brown to scale back Britain's commitment to what many see as an unwinnable and ill-judged war. A poll for The Independent on Sunday earlier this month showed seven out of ten people wanted British troops out of Afghanistan within a year or so. The announcement enables the Labour leader to go into a spring general election claiming that "Afghanisation" is under way in the country, and that within the year the n

UK cuts choppers used to train Afghan special forces

Sunday Times: HELICOPTERS used by British special forces to mentor their Afghan counterparts on anti-drugs operations have been grounded to save just £2m a year. The funding for the helicopters — used by the Special Boat Service (SBS) and Afghan special forces for raids on drugs barons and Taliban insurgents — was cut by the Foreign Office two months ago. The decision came despite Gordon Brown’s announcement that Britain’s “exit strategy” rests on training Afghan forces to take over its role. The Foreign Office refused to discuss the funding but privately officials confirmed the money was cut amid vain hopes that the Americans would foot the bill instead. The mission, known as Operation Emperor, involved SBS commandos training the Afghan special narcotics force as well as mentoring them. ... The UK should instead stop funding some of its social programs used to support terror suspects that the courts have set free and refused deportation orders. This is just another indication that

Russia blames unkown terrorist for train wreck

Observer /Guardian: Russia was tonight coming to terms with its most deadly terrorist attack in years after investigators confirmed that a powerful improvised bomb caused Friday's devastating train crash in which at least 26 people, including several top government officials, were killed. The head of Russia's FSB counter-terrorism agency, Alexander Bortnikov, said the bomb, hidden on the railway line between Moscow and St Petersburg, contained the equivalent of 7kg (15.4lb) of TNT. Officers had found "elements of an explosive device", he said. Today two huge cranes lifted up wreckage at the crash site as workers searched for the missing. Officials said 18 people were still unaccounted for. Nearly 100 people injured in the crash were being treated in hospitals. Russia's president, Dmitry Medvedev, called for calm amid speculation the explosion could be the start of a new campaign by Chechen extremists. "We need there to be no chaos, because the situation is t

Counterinsurgency 101 on Texas border

NY Times: A firefight with heavily armed insurgents near a gold-domed mosque. A helicopter evacuation of bloody car bomb victims. A meeting with tribal elders upset about security. Just another day in Afghanistan? More like the dress rehearsal for war, played out on 100,000 acres of snake-infested pine forest on an Army post near the Texas border. Here, thousands of soldiers prepare for deployment each month by patrolling Afghan villages built by professional set designers, battling roving insurgents played by American soldiers and negotiating with actors playing tribal elders, many of whom speak real Pashto. It is Counterinsurgency 101, about as realistic as the Army can make it in (Fort Polk) Louisiana, never mind the alligator-filled swamps, the “mud” huts assembled from metal shipping containers and the Afghan “villagers” who stir pots of Cajun rice and beans between Taliban raids. The training scenarios, created from intelligence reports fresh from the front, are capable of bring

Climategate U. to open warming data

Sunday Telegraph: The U-turn by the university follows a week of controversy after the emergence of hundreds of leaked emails, "stolen" by hackers and published online, triggered claims that the academics had massaged statistics. In a statement welcomed by climate change sceptics, the university said it would make all the data accessible as soon as possible, once its Climatic Research Unit ( CRU ) had negotiated its release from a range of non-publication agreements. The publication will be carried out in collaboration with the Met Office Hadley Centre. The full data, when disclosed, is certain to be scrutinised by both sides in the fierce debate. A grandfather with a training in electrical engineering dating back more than 40 years emerged from the leaked emails as a leading climate sceptic trying to bring down the scientific establishment on global warming. David Holland, who describes himself as a David taking on the Goliath that is t

Intensity with GOP in next year's Senate races

Dallas Morning News: This has been a year of soul-searching for Republicans , and with the party eager to rebuild, its Senate campaign chief finds himself in a pinch. Texas Sen. John Cornyn sees opportunities in numerous states Barack Obama won last year and – despite his own unabashed conservatism – he's been pushing moderate candidates. It's a fairly standard tactic, but it has not sat well with many conservative activists. Emboldened by a summer of Tea Party protests and anger-infused town halls, they're demanding purity, as they did in an upstate New York congressional race this month that exposed raw nerves and bitter fault lines in the GOP. Now, in Senate races from California to Florida, conservative activists are trying to defeat candidates backed by the Republican establishment. "We have a serious schism within the party," said John Weaver , a GOP political consultant and Texan who has advised Sen. John McCain . "The voters within the party have t

Politicians conspire to ignore climate fraud

From Reuters: Momentum grows for Copenhagen climate deal Damn the evidence of fraud and scandal full speed ahead for a train wreck of epic proportions. Ignoring the cook books of Enron style climate science will come back to haunt Obama and other political leaders of this bogus movement.

Trouble in the Church of Global Warming

Wesley Pruden: Can this marriage be saved? The union of junk scientists, on the prowl for government handouts to pay for their computer games, and eager politicians sniffing an enormous new source of tax revenue was a match made in a dark alley. The always gullible mainstream media was the guest at the wedding, and everybody won. Only the public was duped. The global warming scam is in trouble because neither the globe nor the thermometer will cooperate. Congress is trying to decide whether to believe its own eyes or the hustlers who have been forced to change the name of the scam - we're supposed to call it "climate change" now. The marketing men hired by Al Gore to "re-brand" the scam looked for inspiration to the country philosopher who observed that "if you've got one foot in the fire and the other foot in a bucket of ice, on average you're warm." The term "climate change" strikes a fraudulent average that can be applied to ice s

Buying off the Taliban religious bigots?

NY Times: The American-backed campaign to persuade legions of Taliban gunmen to stop fighting got under way here recently, in an ornate palace filled with Afghan tribal leaders and one very large former warlord leading the way. “O.K., I want you guys to go out there and persuade the Taliban to sit down and talk,” Gul Agha Shirzai, the governor of Jalalabad, told a group of 25 tribal leaders from four eastern provinces. In a previous incarnation, Mr. Shirzai was the American-picked governor of Kandahar Province after the Taliban fell in 2001. “Do whatever you have to do,” the rotund Mr. Shirzai told the assembled elders. “I’ll back you up.” After about two hours of talking, Mr. Shirzai and the tribal elders rose, left for their respective provinces and promised to start turning the enemy. The meeting is part of a battlefield push to lure local fighters and commanders away from the Taliban by offering them jobs in development projects that Afghan tribal leaders help select, paid by the

Welcome to Quantico

Washington Post: There is no yelling. No invective. No spittle-laced derision. Instead, there is a soft, warm welcome for the dozens of young men and women reporting to Officer Candidates School at Quantico Marine Base in Virginia. Arriving in polos and khakis, they check in at their leisure, anytime between 8 a.m. and 11:59 p.m., filing off buses or dropped off by well-wishing parents at what could just as well be the first day of college. This is no Parris Island, the legendary boot camp in South Carolina where the drill instructors' ferocity explodes almost the instant that recruits arrive. But for the next six weeks, as Col. Rick Mancini told the candidates in his orientation speech, "every part of your body, your mind, your spirit will be tested. . . . Your world will be rocked." For the U.S. Marine Corps, this season's crop of candidates is vitally important. Marines are leading the way in Afghanistan and continuing the fight in Iraq, with increased numbers

UK woman medic gets Military Cross

Daily Mail: She stands precisely 5ft tall in her everyday shoes and her smile is disarmingly sweet. Kate Nesbitt doesn't immediately fit the image of fearless military hero, not off the battlefield at least. But there are probably few people a critically injured soldier would rather meet in the chaos of a desert gunfight than this 21-yearold blonde in full flight. And the sight of her sprinting through an Afghan war zone under heavy machine gun fire is almost certainly one that Lance Corporal John List will remember for the rest of a life he now owes to her astonishing display of courage. Kate, a medical assistant serving as an Able Seaman with the Royal Navy, raced 70 yards to the stricken soldier's side as he nearly choked to death from a gunshot wound to the mouth. She cut open a temporary airway and treated him for 45 minutes as rockets whizzed overhead and bullets thudded into the ground nearby. Yesterday her 'inspirational' bravery was rewarded at Buckingham Pal